Brexit timetable: They key dates for 2020 and 2021

So January 31st was 'Brexit Day' - but what are the other key dates once the UK exits the European Union?

Brexit timetable: They key dates for 2020 and 2021
Photo: Depositphotos

The UK has now – after several delays – exited the EU. But with many manners yet to be resolved there are still several key dates to come.

Here are some of the key dates when decisions will be made and we find out more.

READ ALSO Brexit: What does the transition period mean and what do I do now?

The new European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and the EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. Photo: AFP

January 31st, 2020 – Brexit Day. The UK exits and a transition period begins, which currently runs until December 31st, 2020. All UK citizens who do not have dual nationality lose their EU citizenship on this day and will also lose the right to vote or stand for office in EU countries.

In terms of citizens' rights, however, most other things stay the same during the transition period, including the right to live and work in France, so people already living here can stay and British people can move here on the same terms as before. To exercise this right, you must be legally resident in France, which is not the same as simply being in the country – find out more about legal residence requirements here.

March 1st – Talks start on the “future relationship” the main part of which will be about trade relations. This is the date the EU is aiming to have its negotiating mandate agreed, which will give the European Commission the legal authorisation to formally open talks.

June 30th – the deadline for any extension to the transition period to be agreed between the UK and the EU. The transition period can only be extended up to a maximum of two years, so until December 31st 2022 at the absolute latest.

November 26th – this is the date that EU experts say a trade deal will need to be actually agreed by, in order to leave time for it to be formally presented to the European Parliament and ratified in time for the December 31st deadline.

December 31st – the end of the transition period (unless it's extended).

The transition period was originally envisioned as a two-year period in which the EU and UK could negotiate future trade and other agreements, however repeated Brexit delays mean it is now just 11 months. Trade experts say it will be very difficult to get agreements completed within this timeframe, but British PM Boris Johnson is adamant that he will not ask for an extension (although it's worth pointing out that he also said this about the October 2019 Brexit deadline).

January 1st, 2021 – if the transition period is not extended, the UK will then begin its new relationship with the EU, either crashing out without a trade deal or beginning the new trading relationship agreed during the transition period.

Even if there is no trade deal, the Withdrawal Agreement and its protections for citizens' rights will stand as a treaty.

Among the things that the Withdrawal Agreement covers are rights to healthcare, pension uprating and entitlement to benefits, but things that still need to be worked out during the transition period are the rights for people wanting to move after the end of the transition period, how long people who are not legally resident in the EU (for example second home owners) can stay and the right to be joined by a future spouse or partner.

July 31st, 2021 – the deadline for residency applications. 

During the transition period, British people are free to continue to live and work in the EU under the same terms as before. However once the transition period is over, they will need a residency permit, in the same way that other non EU nationalities such as Americans and Australians do. All applications must be made within six months of the end of the transition period. If there is no extension to the transition period, this deadline would fall on July 31st, 2021.

Check out The Local's Preparing for Brexit section for more detail and updates as we get them. if you have questions, please send them to us here and we will do our best to answer them.


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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.